By mid-August many northern Virginia gardens are worn out and lifeless from the heat. Not this garden! On this warm Summer’s evening the garden is alive with butterflies and bumblebees drifting from one blossom to the next.
Too much space in this journal has been allotted to crapemyrtles, hydrangeas, and Franklinia (ignore the flower to the left and focus on the bumblebee so we can properly ignore it) over past weeks, not that they aren’t delightful small trees, but there is much else to go on about.
I have paid scant attention to the many perennials that flourish in the late Summer sun. I suppose that everyone has a garden full of these long blooming plants that brave the worst the season can offer without complaint. At minimum they are deserving of some small recognition.
The coneflowers (Echinacea) have been flowering for weeks, first noted in early July, but ‘Coconut Lime’ (above) was blooming weeks earlier. I was delinquent in deadheading the spent blooms, then decided to transplant them to a more hospitable location, into the blazing sun.
At least I delayed until the two days of mid-nineties had passed. In any case, they survived the transplant with no coddling, though we must note the stupidity of the gardener who digs a plant from a nice, shady spot (although too shady long term for the coneflower) to move it to full sun in the heat of Summer. (Note the use of third person to prevent the writer from getting unduly aggravated.)
Coneflowers have been widely hybridized in recent years, with wonderful results. I have grown ‘Magnus’ for years, but added ‘Kim’s Knee High’ (above), and then very recently ‘Tomato Soup’, with red flowers, but so recent that its buds have not yet opened. I can’t help myself, there are several others that will undoubtedly find a home in this garden before too long.
Another tough-as-nails perennial that succeeds exceedingly well in the heat is sedum, this one ‘Vera Jameson’, cascading over the edge of a dry stacked stone wall. Though the wall supports the edge of the large swimming pond, the soil is thin and stays quite dry from the heat of the stone. ‘Vera Jameson’ seems quite happy with her lot.
I confess to negligence in carrying out many tasks that “good” gardeners must consider routine. I am a planter, sometimes a transplanter, occasionally a weeder, but rarely a deadheader, so it is with conspicuous pride that I point out the salvia (above) in a second flush of bloom. Perhaps I’m not too old to change my wicked ways.
I have learned that without regular pinching in July the Toad Lilies (Tricyrtis, above) will be impossibly leggy, and flop about. Pinching probably is best accomplished with pruners, but finger pinching as I see the need passing through seems to do no harm. The flowers are not large and showy, but small and orchid-like. I have more than a handful, but haven’t a clue the names of any. Pick any you find, they are a treasure for the shady late Summer garden, though one planted in nearly full sun with reflected heat from a nearby stone patio has never objected.
In sun or shade liriope (Liriope muscari, the selection ‘Cleopatra’ above) is a delightful groundcover. The variegated form is more widely planted, and there are a few in the garden, but I prefer the solid green, usually Big Blue. This clumping grass-like variety is preferable to the spreading spicata types that are less mannerly (and a favorite for my wife to whine about their uncivilized ways).
And now I have gone on far too long and have two late Summer blooming favorites still to cover, both preferring shade.
Ligularia ‘Othello’ (above) has medium-large, rounded leaves that fade quickly if exposed to sun, and yellow daisy-like flowers that are coarse on first inspection, but look closer to appreciate what a gem they are.
This evening will close with Japanese Anemone, this one the selection ‘Whirlwind’ with a flower similar to the Franklinia that we begged to avoid this day. The long stemmed flowers bob in the breeze, a joyous reminder how colorful and full of life the late Summer garden can be.